By the time you read this I will be relaxing on the West Coast of Ireland, putting the past few weeks behind me and not thinking about the results that I’ll be coming home to.
Having left you last time with my late night hospital discharge I’ll bring you up to date. I feel I should also warn you, this post will be relatively dull as even I can’t find much fun in sitting around doing nothing.
It wasn’t a particularly easy, first night at home, largely due to the after effects of the anaesthetic. I spent the night elegantly propped up in bed trying to ignore, the nausea, sore throat and heartburn. This wasn’t conducive to sleep so I was a bit like a zombie the next day. After the previous nights nausea I made a quick decision not to maintain the Codeine which makes me not only drowsy but nausea and enough was enough. I felt remarkably pain-free just topping up the Paracetamol, so that formed the mainstay of my pain relief over the next week. I did give in to one Codeine tablet at night to help me sleep, but even one tablet had side effects which I could have done without. Be warned dear friends, if you’re ever prescribed this you run the very real danger of severe constipation. Let’s just say, that even with the additional help of Senna tablets and Dulcolax 6 days felt a long time (especially when you’ve been curious to know whether that too would be blue – it was!)
The much sought after comfort bra, came into play on the second night and I’ve been virtually welded to it. I am a convert to these wonderful things and have since bought 2 more pairs (and yes I will still be stepping in and stepping out).
There’s no danger of lounging around in bed too much, as with the threat of an embolism ringing in your ears, getting up and about is the order of the day. In addition there are also prescribed exercises to help maintain arm and shoulder movement and prevent another hideous list of complications. If I’m honest, I was less bothered by the surgery and more scared of the myriad things that could go wrong:-
- seroma or fluid build up – seromas can appear about 7 to 10 days after surgery. The breast area involved in the surgery may have a spot that’s swollen and feels like there is liquid under the skin. Most seromas are reabsorbed back into your body in about a month, but in some cases it can take up to a year.
- cording or axillary web syndrome – you’ll often be able to see and/or feel a web of thick, ropelike structures under the skin of your inner arm. You may first notice them when you’re doing something that involves raising your arm to shoulder level or above your head. If it happens, cording typically occurs anywhere from several days to several weeks after your surgery, although there have been individual cases where it appears many months later. The cords tend to be painful and tight, making it difficult for you to lift your arm any higher than your shoulder or extend the elbow fully. This pain and limited range of motion can have a major impact on your day-to-day life.
- Lymphoedema – is swelling caused by a build-up of lymph fluid in the surface tissues of the body. This may happen as a result of damage to the lymphatic system because of surgery or radiotherapy to the lymph nodes under the arm (axilla) and surrounding area.
As I am still breathing and showing no symptoms at this stage, I’m assuming I’m safe, only another few days before I can safely dispense with the compression stockings, though the exercises have to carry on a bit longer. I had my first shower after a week which was a vast improvement on getting washed in the sink, and struggling with a jug to wash my hair. Having been banned from using perfumed soap and deodorant on the offending side, I never realised how much you can take such niceties for granted. My OH was very good about it, but I noticed he stayed down wind! I have, thankfully, now had the chance to venture into a town that boasts a Boots and a Holland & Barratt, so I can avail myself of some natural crystal deodorant that should safely do the trick.
After the first few days, I felt remarkably well – as I have done all through this process. It is ironic that in this instance the cancer doesn’t cause the problems as much as the treatment to eradicate it. Sadly, I am fully aware that this is the easy bit and it will get worse further down the line. But I’ll deal with that when I get there – one step at a time.
Right now, I’m feeling fine, just not doing any heavy lifting, driving or anything too strenuous until everything is fully healed inside and out. My only gripe is, that I’ve had two weeks of free time and haven’t read a book (apart from one on Breast Cancer). My concentration seems to have done a runner with Boris, so while I’m pleased to see the back of him, if you spot my mojo can you send it back please.